2018 is the Year of Zayed in the UAE: What does that mean?

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2016 was the Year of Reading, 2017 the Year of Giving … and 2018 will be the Year of Zayed…

As the Year of Giving draws to a close, we’re looking to 2018, which will be the Year of Zayed.

This is because 2018 will mark 100 years since the birth of the founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan.

The year will not only be about remembering all that Sheikh Zayed did to form the UAE of today, but it will also, like with the Year of Giving, be about instilling his values across the community.

From what we’ve read so far it sounds like this will mean initiatives, events and awards across the UAE that promote values of tolerance, progression, environmentalism and leadership, as well as charity. 

Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has said that 2018 being the Year of Zayed will mean it’s all about “tolerance”.

“The UAE’s image is founded on a core belief system of tolerance and coexistence,” he explained. “Nations across the world call to uphold and strengthen this belief in light of the growing fanaticism and hatred that threatens international peace and security.”

“The late Shaikh Zayed established a global school of tolerance and coexistence because he knew that from the Union’s beginnings, the UAE’s uniqueness lay in its ability to welcome different races, religions, and cultures without abandoning its social and cultural identity. The principles in which the late ruler believed, and strived for, were aimed at creating a world of coexistence and peace,” he added.

The UAE’s President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said that the union Sheikh Zayed created between the seven emirates “was based on unity and solidarity to build a progressive society that benefits everyone, and in which people live in security and stability”.

The UAE’s President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said that the union Sheikh Zayed created between the seven emirates “was based on unity and solidarity to build a progressive society that benefits everyone, and in which people live in security and stability”.

Sheikh Khalifa has said that during the year the people of the UAE will be encouraged to uphold the “noble values instilled in them by the late Sheikh Zayed, including those of wisdom, respect, determination, loyalty, a sense of belonging to the nation, and a willingness to make sacrifices at whatever cost”.

Born in 1918 to the Bani Yas tribe in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan became the president of the UAE in 1971, a role he maintained until he passed away in 2004. It’s safe to say that he saw the country completely transform under his rule.

H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, explained why Sheikh Zayed very much represents the UAE of today (and tomorrow): “Sheikh Zayed has instilled in us the willpower and determination to challenge and achieve the impossible. This is why we are always convinced that we are capable of being pioneers and to become one of the best countries in the world. He inspired us to see his way to the future, to follow in his footsteps with confidence and insight, and to consolidate the gains and achievements.”

Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed added that Sheikh Zayed was a model leader: “He was modest, and he personally checked on the needs of citizens. He would visit their homes and attend their occasions, thereby creating a unique bond with the people, becoming an inspiration to many in our region and the world.”

Here are some of the elements of Sheikh Zayed’s leadership that we’re likely to see celebrated (and encouraged) next year…

– “The best way to celebrate the Year of Zayed would be by spreading Zayed’s glorious human and cultural legacy via all the people of the UAE, to continue his inspirational and noble values, and introduce these ideals to new generations.” – Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan

– Much of the Year of Zayed will continue on from the Year of Giving – in 1971 Sheikh Zayed established the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, which channeled a slice of the UAE’s oil riches into 40 developing nations in the Arab world, Asia and Africa. He also spent much of the nation’s wealth building schools and hospitals in the UAE, and sustaining orphanages across the globe.

– “Sheikh Zayed’s main objective was to invest in building the Emirati person, believing in his or her ability to actively participate in the building of the nation.” – Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan

– “We are inspired by Sheikh Zayed’s school of management… this is why we have launched the “UAE Centennial 2071”, which includes a comprehensive government programme with a national strategy to enhance the country’s reputation and soft power and ensure that there are sustainable and diverse sources of government revenues.” – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

– According to Gulf News some of the aims of the Year of Zayed will be to invest in education, “build a system of ethical values for our future generations, to boost productivity of the national economy, and to enhance community cohesion.”

These 9 quotes show how the UAE of today is all part of Sheikh Zayed’s vision…


1. On inclusion and tolerance…

“To treat every person, no matter what his creed or race, as a special soul, is a mark of Islam.”

2. On the media…

“The press has the duty as well as the right to criticise. We welcome constructive criticism.”

3. On the most pertinent of priorities…

“Arab oil can never be dearer than Arab blood.”

4. On how a country’s people are more important than its buildings…

“No matter how many buildings, foundations, schools and hospitals we build, or how many bridges we raise, all these are material entities. The real spirit behind progress is the human spirit, the able man with his intellect and capabilities.

5. On how rulers should reinvest the bounty from natural resources back into people…

“If Allah the Almighty has favoured us with wealth, our first commitment is to seek Allah’s satisfaction and to express our gratitude to Him by utilizing this wealth to make this country better and to bring goodness to its people.”

6. On female empowerment through education…

“The woman is half of the society; any country which pursues development should not leave her in poverty or illiteracy.”

7. On a ruler’s responsibility (words that many of today’s politicians, worldwide, should listen to)…

“The ruler, any ruler, is only there to serve his people and secure for them prosperity and progress. To achieve this, he should live among his people to feel their wishes and know their problems, and this cannot be achieved if he isolates himself from them.”

8. On how he wanted the UAE to follow the suit of the countries pursuing women’s rights last century…

“I hope that the women in my country will follow their sisters in those countries which have previously made the adjustment to the procession of progress and development.”

9. On true wealth…

“Every individual has to perform his duty. Man is mortal, but his work is not. Therefore, work is greater than wealth.”  



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